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Does Android have a future?

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Android, as perhaps most people know today, is Google’s very cool operating system for mobile devices. It’s based on a linux kernel, but when it comes to writing applications for Android, you use Java, however your Java code runs not on the standard SUN/Oracle ME JVM but on Google’s proprietary JVM called Dalvik.

It all seemed like a good idea until Oracle sued Google claiming they infringed some patents ( I don’t know all the gory legal details) by developing their own version of JVM instead of using the original micro edition.

From what I’ve read on the Internet so far, it appears that originally Java Micro Edition, back when Sun hadn’t yet been purchased by Oracle, was released under different licensing terms than Java SE and Java EE, meaning, essentially that from a purely legal viewpoint Oracle is entitled to determine what can be done with Java ME and what cannot be done with it. In other words they have a good chancing of winning the litigation against Google, in which case Goodle, in any scenario, will be made to pay substantial damages, and will also have to do something unpleasant about Dalvik. Here several things are possible, they may be ordered to discontinue Dalvik and use Java ME instead, paying royalties to Oracle, or they may be forced to hand over Dalvik to Oracle. There are some other possibilities too, none of which, however, are very good for Google or Android. Most ‘blogging’ lawyers seem to agree that there is a very high probability that Google may end up losing control over the Android development platform and that could mean major suckage for the whole Android community in the worst case scenario, if, for instance, Oracle decides to simply pull the plug on the whole thing.

What should Google do?

I’m no legal expert, but if I were Google, I would try and turn this setback into an opportunity; I would bin Java, venerable but basically outdated language, and would migrate to Scala. Far as I can tell there can be no licensing problems there and from a technical perspective, Scala was designed from the very start to run on JVM, so I would imagine it shouldn’t be too difficult to develop a version that will run on Dalvik. Then Google could just tell Oracle to shove their Java ME up their fat corporate ass (one fat corporate ass telling another fat corporate ass to shove things up its fat corporate ass, isn’t it ironic), they’ll still probably have to pay damages to Oracle but they’d get their very own development platform for Android that nobody would be able to sue away from them.

It has to be mentioned here, though, that at this point I have no idea whether developing a version of Scala for Dalvik would be technically viable (I expect it should) or whether it would make sense as a business proposition for Google. Scala, though rather obscure, is fast gaining in popularity as an ‘improved Java’, it’s free and it has a vibrant, though small, community of developers. ¬†Perhaps there might even be a chance that if Google played their cards right they might get a Dalvik Scala for free, if the Scala community shows enough interest in developing for Android.

Anyway, just food for thought.

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